I'd like to make pinhole cameras as a project with my yearbook class. The camera looks easy to make. I'm worried about developing. Is there an instant film I can use, or should I make a little dark room and try to develop the photos?

  • \$\begingroup\$ It would be easier to make a small camera obscura. The image can be projected onto a screen (tissue paper) in the middle of the box, which can be viewed from a viewing port on the other side. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 18:21
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of Will a pinhole camera work with instant film? \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 18:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ pinhole camera + cyanotype could be interesting - youtube.com/watch?v=hYqn8CO2P3E \$\endgroup\$
    – db9dreamer
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 21:47

3 Answers 3


The camera looks easy to make.

Aaaand you'd be right. The camera isn't the hard part though. Please see my answers to this question (Will a pinhole camera work with instant film?) and this one (Instax Film Developing Red)

I'm worried about developing.

And you are right to be concerned.

Is there an instant film I can use, or should I make a little dark room and try to develop the photos?

If you have access to a darkroom in your school, then the easiest way to experience your own pinhole camera is something like this: https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Pinhole-Camera-With-an-Oatmeal-Tube/

If you don't have the darkroom and insist on using Instant film, then you're going to have a rough time. You need to reverse engineer the rollers that spread the developer across the film and this is no easy task.

If this is just about a pinhole or optics project, then I suggest you use the camera obscure that xiota mentions or use a digital camera with a home-made pinhole (https://www.diyphotography.net/pinhole-photography-digital-camera/)


You could use Ilford Direct Positive paper.

This would eliminate the film or negative developing process but you would still need to develop the paper. You would need a basic dark room with a Ortho safe light.

There are instant film backs that you can attach to a camera that accepts 4x5 film backs but that requires expense.

When i was a kid we made a pinhole camera from a Quaker Oat container.

I think the ilford direct positive paper would be fun, A make shift darkroom and three trays of chemicals, developer, stop bath, fixer and tray to wash the prints in. This way the kids could physically see the image appear on the paper, they learn photography AND chemistry.

I have the Zero Image 4x5 camera. I can use a Polaroid film back that excepts instant film.


A dark/changing bag, and a Paterson System 4 daylight development tank is possibly your easiest option.

You put everything in the bag, stick your hands in, and transfer the film onto the reels for development, put the light trap tube with the reel on into the tank, and cap the tank with the funnel. [Sheet film has a few options, but is doable in the same mid to large tanks]

From there you can do the rest of the steps out in the open in the light, where it is easy to share with a class.

  • Black and white film and chemistry is easy, relatively forgiving, and not terribly expensive.
  • Colour film is an option, but requires tighter controls, and is more expensive for small batch work.

From there, scanning the negatives is a good option for importing to a modern yearbook workflow.

Other options include using 'paper negatives', and exposing to black and white photo paper

  • These can be developed under a red safe light that the students can watch the process of. [Normal modern black and white film reacts to red light, and must be handled in total darkness or possibly while using IR goggles if you're not handling Infrared Film]

Third common option is using "Direct Positive Paper", nearly the same as working with normal paper negatives, but they 'look normal' after you develop them. - Probably not worth the extra cost over paper negatives if you scan and invert the image digitally.

Using Instax Film or Polaroid film is possible, but has extra hoops to jump through to actually develop them reliably, and runs more expensive per photograph. You will need to sort out a method to run the film through a roller to develop it.

  • However it may be an option if you're very keen on colour images and don't want to send film to a lab or deal with the more temperamental colour chemistry.

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